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When do the NHL playoffs start? Key dates, schedule & more to know for hockey’s 2020 return

After months of chaos, confusion and commotion in the hockey world, fans have an answer to the all-important question: Yes, there will be a 2020 Stanley Cup champion. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced in May that the league was moving ahead with a 24-team playoff format in which 12 teams from each conference would participate in a modified postseason. There were a few kinks to work out, including a collective bargaining agreement extension, but finally, on Friday, July 10, both the league and the NHLPA ratified plans for the season to move forward with the NHL Return Play Plan.

Here’s when NHL hockey will resume and the Stanley Cup playoffs will begin:

When do the NHL playoffs start in 2020?

Qualifiers and round-robins: Saturday, Aug. 1First round: Aug. 11Second round: Aug. 25 (tentative)Conference finals: Sept. 8 (tentative)Stanley Cup Final: Sept. 22 (tentative)

The first games of the playoffs, featuring best-of-five series qualifiers, are scheduled for Aug. 1, with Flames vs. Jets, Blackhawks vs. Oilers, Panthers vs. Islanders, Rangers vs. Hurricanes and Canadiens vs. Penguins.

The round-robin section of the postseason will start Aug. 2 with a matchup between the Flyers and Bruins, less than three weeks after the opening of training camps on July 13.

Games will be played in two Canadian “hub cities”: Toronto for Eastern Conference games and Edmonton for Western Conference games. The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be held in Edmonton.

The Stanley Cup Final is scheduled to begin Sept. 22 and be completed no later than Oct. 4.

How will the Stanley Cup playoffs work?

Before the playoffs officially start, there will be a “qualifying round” in each conference. The top four seeds in each conference will receive a bye from this round, leaving the fifth through 12th seeds in each conference to face off for the remaining spots in the playoff bracket. These series will be best-of-five matchups, with playoff overtime rules in effect. The winners will move on to face the top four seeds in the next round. 

While that’s going on, the top four seeds will play a round-robin tournament to determine their seeding for the first round of the playoffs. If these games go to overtime, then they will be played under regular-season overtime rules. If there is a tie in points at the conclusion of the round-robin, then points percentages from the regular season will be used as a tiebreaker.

After the playoff bracket is set, each playoff series will be a best-of-seven, from the first round through the Stanley Cup Final.

MORE: Connor McDavid endorses playoff format, discusses role in NHL’s return to play

NHL playoff schedule

(All times Eastern.)

Saturday, Aug. 1

Eastern Conference (all games in Toronto)
Best-of-five series

New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes, Game 1, noonFlorida Panthers vs. New York Islanders, Game 1, 4 p.m.Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 1, 8 p.m.

Western Conference (all games in Edmonton)
Best-of-five series

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers, Game 1, 3  p.m.Winnipeg Jets vs. Calgary Flames, Game 1, 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 2

Eastern Conference
Best-of-five series

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 1, 8 p.m.

Round-robin

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins, 3 p.m.

Western Conference
Best-of-five series

Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators, Game 1, 2 p.m.Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game 1, 10:30 p.m.

Round-robin

St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche, 6:30 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 3

Eastern Conference
Best-of-five series

New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes, Game 2, noonMontreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 2, 8 p.m.

Round-robin

Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 4 p.m.

Western Conference
Best-of-five series

Winnipeg Jets vs. Calgary Flames, Game 2, 2:30 p.m.Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers, Game 2, 10:30 p.m.

Round-robin

Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 4

Eastern Conference
Best-of-five series

Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders, Game 2, noonColumbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 2, 4 p.m.Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers, Game 3, 8 p.m.

Western Conference
Best-of-five series

Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators, Game 2, 12:30 p.m.Calgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets, Game 3, 6:45 p.m.Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game 2, 10:45 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 5

Eastern Conference
Best-of-five series

New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers, Game 3, noonPittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens, Game 3, 8 p.m.

Round-robin

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins, 4 p.m.

Western Conference
Best-of-five series

Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes, Game 3, 12:30 p.m.Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks, Game 3, 10:30 p.m.

Round-robin

Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 6

Eastern Conference
Best-of-five series

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Game 3, TBDCarolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers, Game 4*, TBD

Round-robin

Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers, TBD

Western Conference
Best-of-five series

Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild, Game 3, TBDCalgary Flames vs. Winnipeg Jets, Game 4*, TBD

Round-robin

Vegas Golden Knights vs. St. Louis Blues, TBD

Friday, Aug. 7

Eastern Conference
Best-of-five series

New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers, Game 4*, TBDPittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens, Game 4*, TBDToronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Game 4*, TBD

Western Conference
Best-of-five series

Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes, Game 4*, TBDVancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild, Game 4*, TBDEdmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks, Game 4*, TBD

Saturday, Aug. 8

Eastern Conference
Best-of-five series

New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes, Game 5*, TBDMontreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, Game 5*, TBD

Round-robin

Boston Bruins vs. Washington Capitals, TBD

Western Conference
Best-of-five series

Winnipeg Jets vs. Calgary Flames, Game 5*, TBDChicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers, Game 5*, TBD

Round-robin

Vegas Golden Knights vs. Colorado Avalanche, TBD

Sunday, Aug. 9

Eastern Conference
Best-of-five series

Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders, Game 5*, TBDColumbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 5*, TBD

Round-robin

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, TBD

Western Conference
Best-of-five series

Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game 5*, TBDArizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators, Game 5*, TBD

Round-robin

Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues, TBD

* If necessary

NHL standings, playoff bracket

Twenty-four teams (12 in each conference) will compete for the Stanley Cup:

Eastern Conference

Seed
Team
Record
Points pct.
1
Boston Bruins
44-14-12
.714
2
Tampa Bay Lightning
43-21-6
.657
3
Washington Capitals
41-20-8
.652
4
Philadelphia Flyers
41-21-7
.645
5
Pittsburgh Penguins
40-23-6
.623
6
Carolina Hurricanes
38-25-5
.596
7
New York Islanders
35-23-10
.588
8
Toronto Maple Leafs
36-25-9
.579
9
Columbus Blue Jackets
33-33-15
.579
10
Florida Panthers
35-26-8
.565
11
New York Rangers
37-28-5
.564
12
Montreal Canadiens
31-31-9
.500

Western Conference

Seed
Team
Record
Points pct.
1
St. Louis Blues
42-19-10
.662
2
Colorado Avalanche
42-20-8
.657
3
Vegas Golden Knights
39-24-8
.606
4
Dallas Stars
37-24-8
.594
5
Edmonton Oilers
37-25-9
.585
6
Nashville Predators
35-26-8
.565
7
Vancouver Canucks
36-27-6
.565
8
Calgary Flames
36-27-7
.564
9
Winnipeg Jets
37-28-6
.563
10
Minnesota Wild
35-27-7
.558
11
Arizona Coyotes
33-29-8
.529
12
Chicago Blackhawks
32-30-8
.514

Teams that will not participate

Team
Record
Points pct.
Buffalo Sabres
30-31-8
.493
New Jersey Devils
28-29-12
.493
Anaheim Ducks
29-33-9
.472
Los Angeles Kings
29-35-6
.457
San Jose Sharks
29-36-5
.450
Ottawa Senators
25-34-12
.437
Detroit Red Wings
17-49-5
.275

Updated odds to win the 2020 Stanley Cup

Team
Odds*
Boston Bruins
+600
Tampa Bay Lightning
+650
Colorado Avalanche
+800
Vegas Golden Knights 
+850
Philadelphia Flyers 
+850
Washington Capitals
+1000
St. Louis Blues
+1100
Pittsburgh Penguins
+1600
Dallas Stars
+1700
Edmonton Oilers
+2500
Toronto Maple Leafs
+2700
Calgary Flames
+3500
Vancouver Canucks
+3500
New York Islanders
+4000
New York Rangers
+4000
Nashville Predators
+4200
Carolina Hurricanes
+4200
Arizona Coyotes
+4500
Minnesota Wild
+4500
Winnipeg Jets
+5500
Florida Panthers
+6000
Columbus Blue Jackets
+6500
Chicago Blackhawks
+8000
Montreal Canadiens
+8000

* Fanduel.com odds as of July 14.
 

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